Finding Epie will not fix our rape culture problem

I was about  20 years old and in my final year of university when I was first sexually assaulted by an adult man.

I didn’t resist.

Don’t get me wrong I was in shock that this was happening to me. ME of all people. Like what?! Which motherfucker??! I was enraged, livid, murderous. He knew me. Knew my parents. Knew my family. Knew I was the kind of girl who could speak for herself. I knew his wife, his children. That didn’t stop him. I daresay THAT was why he targeted me.

And I didn’t resist.

Why, you may ask?  Because what I felt at that moment as he slid his hands up my thigh, as he pushed aside my panties, what I felt was resignation. Resignation and a bone deep tiredness born of disappointment, disillusionment and disgust. That moment was a culmination of what I had always known about my community but had hoped would be something I was wrong about.

As a girl growing up in Cameroonian society, you understand pretty quickly that you are not yours. Yes, you are you but you are not yours. You are there for men (regardless of their relationship to you) to control, to look at, comment on, maybe admire…or grope, insult, dominate and eventually own, because that is what marriage (still the highest achievement women can have in our society) is in our communities. Ownership. Don’t believe me? Look at the disproportionate praise and admiration men who do not treat their wives like trash get. Never mind that being married to someone should mean you place that person’s welfare as high as your own.

I was 10 the first time I was catcalled. I was walking up Clerk’s Quarters road in Buea trying to catch a taxi to GRA where we lived. A truck full of soldiers drove by to the camp at Long Street and the whistles erupted almost immediately. I ignored them. Realizing they would get no response from me, one of them called out:

Tu te prends pour qui? Avec tes grosses fesses la, espece de wolowos.

As I moved into my teens and developed as a woman, it became worse. It was almost as if my developing body was an invitation. I don’t need to give too many examples. Any Cameroonian woman (or African woman, or woman for that matter) can tell you what “worse” means. Worse is at home, at school, at work, on the streets, on the farms, in the markets. Worse is normal. Worse is expected. Worse is defended.

Worse is quite literally life. Your value as a woman in this society hinges on how well you can deal with worse. Your value hinges on if and how well you can love worse, marry worse, understand worse, make space for worse, forgive worse, turn a blind eye to worse. It’s why we praise our parents and grandparents relationships even though we KNOW the fuckshit the women almost always had to put up with.

This is the culture in which we live, move and have our beings. A culture where you as a woman are not safe from any man, regardless of his relationship to you. A culture where you are expected to take precautions to ward against a danger even though you don’t know which face that danger will be wearing when you finally meet it. A culture where you will ultimately get blamed and disparaged for other people’s decisions because you had the effrontery to become their victim.

I am tired.

I have written abut our communities and our messed up approach to sexuality Here, Here and Here.

 

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Can’t play fair if the “game” is rigged

I see a general awakening in the minds of women from my part of the world. I see that the concept of self-love, self-preservation and self-interest is gaining on. I see more and more young women raising their voices against the unjust and harmful standards our mothers and female forbears were held to. This is often situated in language encouraging young women to be responsible for themselves and their destinies. To not look at marriage or men as a way out, to demand and work for what they want and play the game too, and do it without complaining because this is just the game. I do this too and I do it because far be it from me not to encourage a fellow woman to reject a lesser life. It’s a big world out there and you too can make your mark in any way you choose, sis. Go for it.

What I’d like to see more of though, especially for Cameroonian women, is the acknowledgement of just how shitty, selfish, manipulative and fucking awful men can be. The acknowledgment of just how much almost all systems within the patriarchal communities we live in , whether economic, political, social are engineered to help men succeed and keep women out.  I’d like to see more honest conversations about the mental bracing, blatant opportunism and self interest that is necessary if one, as a woman, would prevail in this world. I’d like to see more of the acknowledgement that while we push young women to these feats of daring and accomplishment, we fail to equip them fully with every material and immaterial weapon in their arsenal, and thus set them up for failure at worst and an uphill battle at best.

Here’s a truth: Men, heterosexual men in particular – be it your father, brother, cousin, uncle, friend, lover, colleague, employer – will try to get the most physical, emotional and psychological labor, material resources etc out of us for as little as possible and we have been conditioned by our society to be ok with that. To allow it. We’ve been conditioned to think this is what it means to love a man, to have lived successfully as a woman, to pour yourself out as a living sacrifice, to take your very feminine essence and lay it out for a man to use and often abuse at his whim. You bear children, cook food, clean his mess, tolerate his rubbish and immature, inconsiderate impulses, you make your body and being available, take a step back at work, not assert yourselves, aspire for less so you can give them space to shine, without even realizing it, be modest, be humble, be meek and do all this regardless of any hopes and aspirations you might have. This, above all, is your calling. Saying NO to any of this at any level immediately brands you as difficult or complicated. Meanwhile the men in our communities have been allowed to imagine more, dare more, risk more, want more, have more, be more.

Now you are being told stand up for yourself because “woman eh!” and to do it with unimpeachable integrity while NOTHING is being done to ensure that this will be a level playing field. The game has been rigged from the onset but the only person really expected to follow the rules at this point is you. You are also being told it is your responsibility to demand and expect that men treat you better and simultaneously vilified for doing exactly that.

That’s a shame isn’t it?

You know what I mean, ladies. You run up against it time and time again. You’re doing everything right, but you end up holding broken pieces because you’re in a game where the men are looking out for themselves, with blatant selfishness and you’re running yourself ragged trying to hold them accountable to the ridiculous standards they have set but do not follow, so you can maintain your sanity and keep a clear conscience in the assurance that you’re a good person, but also not push them away because quite honestly, you care. You don’t want to be lonely.
Sis, it’s a trap.

In the words of one of my favorite women of all time, Ninon de L’Enclos

“Feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention.”

All the restraints that have been placed upon you are not designed to save you or protect you. They are designed to control you. To harness the deep resources of your mind, body and spirit and exploit them shamelessly while you fool yourselves with notions of moral superiority, all the while dragging around broken spirits and ravaged dreams.

Now am I saying that we go out and do unto them what they are doing unto us? Maybe.

Ninon again:

“It is strange that modesty is the rule for women when what they most value in men is boldness.”

Strange indeed, isn’t it?

Think about it. You’re being hoodwinked, ladies. Open your eyes. Don’t fall into the trap of letting the oppressor dictate how you fight for your liberation or empowerment, or what that liberation/empowerment should look like. Most importantly, do not let yourself be deceived into thinking you have to toe imaginary lines and follow rules which when push come to shove mean little to nothing. People may talk but people have always talked haven’t they? The world kept right on spinning.

Decide what you need to stay happy, sane and productive this world and go after it with reckless abandon.

I’ll write more about this subsequently.

Peace.

FPW

Stand Your Ground

Cameroonian Girl

Stand your ground. There’s no man born who can take you out unless you allow it. And you’ve been taught to allow so much, anything else feels wrong.

Stand your ground.

You’re not crazy. You’re not asking too much. You’re not being unreasonable. You’re not being selfish. You’re not arrogant or full of pride. You don’t even think as high enough of your self as they accuse you of. Think higher.

Stand your ground.

Even if it means you’ll stand alone. Even when it hurts and you want to die . When it feels wrong, when it feels right. When it feels good, when it hurts. When you win and when you lose (and yes you will).

Stand your ground.

You’re not weak. You’re not defective.  You’re only human. You’re not perfect. You’re a seed which grew where it fell from the Universe’s hand. Fate will storm on you. You will break and be broken.  Branches, leaves and fruit will be lost. And the waters will wash these pieces downstream.

Stand your ground.

When that’s over, when that rain stops as rains is known to do, stand up. You’re stronger than you realize and you carry the DNA of women who’ve carried the world on their shoulders. Trust the soil you were planted in. Reach deeper. You grew there didn’t you?

Stand your ground.

You will win. Or your daughters will.

But you have to stand your ground.

Bush Faller Lament

It’s not supposed to be like this, is it?
“Bush” is supposed to be safe.
“Bush” is supposed to be comfortable.
Predictable even.
You clean enough shit and “put your head for book,”
Play your cards right and don’t be too much of a crook,
And one day, you too can be a bushfaller,
With a fast car and money to blow in Limbe at Christmas.

It’s not supposed to be like this.
Your mother couldn’t have warned you about the quiet white boy who kept to himself.
Or the police officer who thinks you inferior to himself.
Or the Pakistani boy who’s not been himself, since the day he held his fathers lifeless hand and cursed the people who would kill a poor farmer and not the pashas.

It’s not supposed to be like this, is it?
The rising tide of fear.
The question niggling the back of your brain.
The one you push down, as you try to assure yourself it will all be alright.
That you and yours are too small, to be of any consequence in this fight.

It’s not supposed to be like this.
And yet here we are.
Crying more than the bereaved.
And what do we really mourn?
The lives lost?
Or the death of the illusion of safety we’d allowed ourselves to buy into?

The Parable of the Flower in the Sun

The was once a flower, beautiful as can be. With petals big and soft and a rainbow of hues such as none had ever seen, it grew in the wild where all could see and admire its beauty. It took nutrients and water from the soil and enjoyed what sun it could get, each season  blooming and growing, shedding its petals to produce even more beautiful ones.

One day, the sun noticed this flower and marveled at its glory.

“I’ll go shine on it some more,” it said. “Surely, it could use some more of my nourishing light and warmth.”

And so the sun came and shone its light on this flower.

And the flower bloomed and grew, each season shedding its petals to produce even more beautiful ones. It loved the light, basked in the warmth and blinded all that came by with its magnificence.

Sunshine-Flower-High-Quality-Wallpaper

But then the sun grew smug.

“Look how much that flower wants my light. See how it blooms in my warmth! See how it opens its petals to my probing rays! See how thirsty it is for my focus…”

And so the sun, varied its focus. Some days shining bright on the flower, some days leaving it in the shade, some days never rising at all.

And still the flower grew, and bloomed and shed its petals just to produce even more beautiful ones.

Because that is what flowers do.

2015: Same Ndutu, Different Year

Well hi there! Good to see you! A recurring nightmare I had beginning this year was that reading my blog and arguing with me was going to be the bad habit that many of you dropped this year, with all that New Year Resolution nonsense. So, I’m super glad to see you. I can’t quit you all either.

Seriously. I thought about it.

During my retreat (if you want to call it that), I seriously considered never blogging again. I mean I’d had a good 2014, for a newbie. My blog got about 15 000 views (although I’m pretty certain at least half of those views were mine, before I finally figured out how to stop the thingie from counting my views, but still even 100 views is pretty sweet!). We got up to some good fun. Hopefully, we all found new way to think about things and be better all round human beings. But I was tired. I mean for one who rants as she breathes, 2014 sure served up a lot to rant about. I had rant fatigue. Unborn rants died inside of me because I just didn’t have the energy left to push them out. So yeah. I was ready to shut it all down and simply walk away.

But, who am I kidding. That old Cameroonian saying: If they shut her mouth she will speak through her... you know the one I mean. That saying was probably written with me in mind. A therapist friend of mine calls it external processing. She’s probably right, especially on the doom and gloom part. Writing, debating, reading, writing and debating some more is how I make sense of the world around me. So, I’m back to it and not a second too soon. There’s stuff to process out here folks. But I’d like to repeat a few disclaimers I made when I started blogging. I’ve updated them and I am emphasizing certain points so you know/remember what you’re dealing with (see in red). With one year of blogging under my belt, I can see that many of those promises were made too soon:

DISCLAIMERS (A.K.A Cover Your Ass)

> This is a space where I will attempt to engage women (and men), particularly African women (and men) in discourse and debate about the issues that affect us. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. The are not representative of my family, any school I attend or place of employment, or anything else that I am affiliated to. 
> This blog has NO RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION. None whatsoever. ( I understand that many of my friends and readers are devoted Christians so if I will be posting about something they might construe as offensive I will put a disclaimer at the top.(I didn’t quite adhere to this last year, but will try harder this year so you can skip the post. Be warned, however, that if you choose to engage me, I will not hold back)
> I make a promise to be polite and respectful as much as is possible. Please do note, however, that I am given to ranting and I have been known to use profanity (some things NEED F-bombs, I’m sorry). Also, I will be discussing controversial issues and tempers are bound to rise. The blog is not called Find Palava Woman for nothing. I’ll only ask that we stay respectful of each others opinions.   I take that back. I ain’t about that life anymore. Some opinions are crap – in my opinion, of course – and if I think your opinion is crap, I will tell you so and why. There is too much foolery being circulated out there in the name of opinions. If you want to “uncrappen” your opinion, back it up with logic and fact, otherwise, exercise your right to stay silent.
> I will be speaking in a combination of French, English and Pidgin English. Might even throw in some local Cameroonian languages. I’ll translate.
> My posts are inspired by the world around me, the conversations I have and the things I see. This blog is basically your all access card into my head. Be warned. It’s a dark, dark place (…especially when the red river flows). That being said, some of you might recognize yourselves in things I write. I will be paranoid about privacy. I understand some of you do not care to share your business with the world, as I apparently do.
> Some things I say would easily be construed as me being judgmental. I will always try to examine things from both sides,but this blog is about MY take on these issues. I am not a perfect human being, but I don’t have to be perfect  to be able to speak critically about what I perceive to be problematic. Even Nelson Mandela had his issues.
Good?
Alright. I need coffee. When I return, we shall dive into the derp of the fuckery 2015 unleashed even before its blipping eyes opened.
Thank you all again for reading. Even at my crankiest, I recognize the privilege it is to have people willing to take time out of their day to read what I write.
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